Not So Clearly Dangerous 

By Mark Rizzi 

“Not So Clearly Dangerous”

Do those words catch the attention of you, the law enforcement people of Nebraska?  Would those words catch the attention of the average consumer?  What you are about to read is not about a dangerous criminal,  or a dangerous operation, either of which you are likely familiar with.  It is about a dangerous situation, and this one, you may not see coming.  In your careers in law enforcement, you have trained extensively to deal with dangerous circumstances to serve and protect the public.  You have hours of education in procedures, practices, and protocols to prepare for any situation.  You rely on your knowledge, experience and your equipment to enable you to do, quickly and decisively, what you are trained to do.  That’s what this is about.  One of your important pieces of equipment; one that you likely have not given a second thought to, other than basic maintenance-your vehicle.  Be it a car, truck, or SUV, all have highly designed and engineered  passenger restraint and crash management safety systems.  I want to draw your attention to something most people do not think about, after I recalled a conversation with a Nebraska State Trooper on a Saturday morning in my shop, while I was repairing a stone chip in his windshield.  

The trooper was telling me that he had recently had the windshield in his patrol car replaced, and how he already had been struck by a rock causing a nasty little bull’s-eye.  I couldn’t help myself  but to ask a few questions while I worked. 

“Just had it changed recently?”, I inquired. 

“Yes” he replied, “very recently.” 

Within the next few minutes, I had obtained enough information to be sure that this trooper was driving his patrol car in a totally unsafe condition for at least a few hours and possibly a few days or even a week after the installation. 

Knowing that this man was trained to observe detail, I asked the trooper pointed and detailed questions about the installation that he had stood and witnessed.  As I did,  I began to explain to him the reasons for my interest, and why he should be equally interested, since he likely pushes his vehicle to the edge of the safety envelope frequently.  He was interested, and was notable irritated to say the least, when he learned what had happened to him.  

I explained to him that the windshield in today's vehicles is a major component of a highly engineered crash management system.  During roof crush and rollover it contributes as much as an extra sixty percent to roof support.  In frontal collisions, the windshield is the backboard for the passenger side airbag.  A passenger side airbag strikes the windshield when it deploys at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour.  Next the windshield must also absorb the impact of the occupant and the airbag as they both strike the windshield again in the following split second.  This incredible force must be absorbed by the windshield for the airbag to cushion and retain the occupants in a collision.  The means to achieve this structural integrity is the bonding of the glass to the body of the car, with automotive urethane auto glass adhesives. 

In the case of the trooper, the installer released the car to him in the time it took him to reassemble the car, his wipers, cowling, radio antennae, and others small items, and the time it took him to complete the paperwork.  This took, in the trooper’s best estimate, 20 minutes at the most.  The only fast-cure urethane auto glass adhesive approved for use by the manufacturer of the trooper’s car,  Ford Motor Co, is Essex Beta-Seal U216; it is the only fast-cure urethane to pass Ford’s crash testing.  Beta-Seal is a two-component urethane adhesive.  This means it cures chemically, independent of and almost indifferent to, temperature and humidity present.  The “Safe Drive Away Time,” time for proper cure, for Essex Beta-Seal is one hour.  

Beta-Seal has a unique packaging system and dispensing gun, seeming to some to be akin to what you might see in a Star Wars movie.  I showed the trooper a Beta-Seal adhesive package, and our Beta-Seal applicator gun.  With wide eyes at such a device, he stated emphatically that this was NOT what was used on his car.  I surmised that the installer had used a one-part urethane adhesive system from what he could tell me about the package,  container colors, dispensing system and other details.  One-part urethane systems depend on moisture, and warmth, above freezing temperatures to cure.  Generally, the colder the temperature, the lower the humidity, and therefore the lower the oxygen level available for cure.  In addition, lower temperatures slow the chemical reaction that occurs when curing takes place.  In essence, , many one part urethanes stop curing below freezing, and just sit there.  Until temperatures warm above freezing, they cannot, and given enough time frozen, may not ever, cure properly. 

 I also showed the trooper the curing times for Essex U400 urethane, the one-part urethane Ford also approves, and the recommended cure times for that one part product.  Knowing that even this product had not been used on his patrol car, he was shocked to learn that his vehicle was not safe to drive for a substantial amount of time after it had been returned to him- a fact that was not divulged to him by the installer.  With the temperature only above freezing for short periods over the next few days, it is highly open to conjecture when the vehicle became safe to drive.  If we were correct in identifying the adhesives the installer used, this problem would have been avoided by following the adhesive manufacturers recommended cure times listed with its products.  However, that would not have allowed the installer to give the trooper his car back quickly. 

I further encroached upon the Saturday morning off-duty time of this officer to show him photographs we are compiling and documenting of the results of improper and poor windshield installations that my staff and I witness regularly upon removal of cracked windshields from customers cars for replacement.  I showed him pictures of improper and unacceptable installation materials, methods, and significant rust resulting from installers lack of knowledge or lack of caring.  

When my staff and I find results such as these in a customer’s car, we immediately begin photographing and documenting what we have found for the customer.  In order to perform a proper installation to return the car to it’s original structural design, we explain why we must have additional time and procedures to “clean up the mess” caused by the poor previous installation.  Federal Regulations strongly discourage knowingly changing or rendering inoperative any safety element designed into a motor vehicle.  We cannot ignore “changes” made by a poor previous installation.  With many manufacturers standards, specifications, and requirements being higher than those of the government, the only safe approach is to adhere strictly to those Original Equipment Manufacturer’s specifications.  I hope that someday, our photo archive of poor installations will be useful to the proper people, when it is realized that consumers are too often receiving poor quality repairs without even realizing it, until they have that fateful crash, but by then it is too late.  

In February, 2000, ABC News 20/20 did a segment on poor windshield installation.  They focused on how the result could threaten your life because the highly engineered rolling safety capsules we call motor vehicles are so dependent on the windshield to keep the occupants in the car so the rest of the life saving systems can do their jobs.  Alas, to my disappointment, it has not left a lasting impression on consumers, which is why we have devoted my business’s advertising effort to consumer education about safety and quality. 

In light of insurance companies implementation of “HMO” type managed care packages for vehicles, and the formation of “approved” installers who meet the insurers requirements,  this consumer education has become paramount to our business.  Insurers rarely, if ever,  do quality post-repair inspections of work performed by their “approved” affiliate shops.  In fact, it seems that all the insurer ever checks is if the shop is installing glass at the insurer’s “pre-approved” prices.  Consumers do not know if they have received a quality installation that they can, and may have to, bet their lives on.  “Managed Care” type plans without any real verification of quality workmanship have become “Managed Price” plans for insurers.  

After ABC’s 20/20 segment on poor windshield installation (February 2000), you’d expect to find insurers looking hard for providers who do quality work.  You’d also expect systematic post-repair inspections to ensure that insureds’ vehicle safety systems are absolutely returned to original structure and design.  Finally, you’d expect extra effort to retain repairers who consistently provide quality installations to protect insurers’ precious market share. After all, safe repairs that keep customers and their offspring alive to become insurers’ future market share seem only logical.

Unfortunately, what we have is insurer hired Third Party Administrators, (TPA) who “help” insureds go to “approved” shops.  These “approved” shops being anyone that have agreed with pricing in advance limited by insurers.  The consumer doesn’t  realize that there is no such thing in Nebraska as an HMO for your car.  Additionally, some TPA’s are telling consumers that they may have to pay a difference for choosing a shop that is NOT an insurer affiliate.  Nebraska law guarantees the consumer the right to choose, (Chapter 44-1540), and many times “non-approved” shops charge less than insurer approved prices, while still excelling in quality.  The consumer isn’t informed of this. 

In his column “Around the Industry” from the September/October issue of AutoGlass Magazine, Leo Cyr, a veteran of the auto glass industry, and past vice president of Member Services for the National Glass Association, speaking of some insurer ‘agreements’  with repairers, said, 

“All [windshield] installations are not equal as was so graphically shown by ABC's 20/20 news program in its recent expose on windshield installation.  The program conclusively demonstrated what the AGR [Auto Glass Replacement] industry has maintained all along--there are right ways and there are wrong ways to install a windshield.  If we were discussing proper hubcap installation, this discussion would be moot.  Who cares?  Slap the darn thing in place and move on.  A windshield cannot be so easily dismissed.  Windshields are an integral part of a vehicle's structural integrity.  If the windshield dislodges in a collision or roll-over, the safety envelope designed to protect vehicle occupants will be compromised.” 

The balance of Cyr’s and other related articles can be viewed from links at our website at www.acrglass.com

So where does this leave all of you reading this?  Hopefully, it leaves you with a handful of simple questions to ask the next person who installs a windshield in your vehicle for you, and the peace of mind that comes with the knowledge that you have chosen a professional that views you as the customer, not a cost-saving program which is self serving to someone other than to your safety and the safety of your family.  If you, as that State trooper will next time, ask questions and demand the quality that your car manufacturer designed into it’s crash management and safety restraint systems,  then I have done my job, and we’ll both sleep better tonight.  

Five Questions to ask your auto glass installer: 

1.  What brand of glass are you going to install in my vehicle, and is it approved by my car manufacturer as an authorized replacement to retain my warranty, and maintain and restore the structural integrity of my car? 

2.  What urethane adhesive are you going to use to install the new glass, and is it approved by my car manufacturer to retain my warranty, and maintain and restore the structural integrity of my car? 

3.  What recommended procedures will you use, and are they approved by my car manufacturer to retain my warranty, and maintain and restore the structural integrity of my car? 

4.  What is the recommended “Safe Drive Away Time” for the urethane adhesive you are using, and please show me the urethane manufactures data of how you calculated it? 

5.  Do you document the Data of the installation you will perform in my car, including the glass installed, lot numbers of urethane adhesives/primers used, Safe Drive Away Time, and other data of my glass installation?  How long do you keep those records? 

Five Things an “Approved Installer” Probably Won’t Tell you: 

1.  We have agreed to price with your insurer before you ever called us. 

2.  Your insurer/claims administrator has inspected our work.  (They likely have not) 

3.  We signed an agreement with your insurer and/or its claims administrator, assuming  any of their liability and damages, including punitive damages they may be liable for, if WE do poor repairs to your car.  

4.  We view your insurer as our customer. 

5.  We agreed to drop our prices whenever your insurer tells us to. 

 

What you should see beneath a proper installation.  Clean, uniform urethane adhesive bed around perimeter of windshield.

Astro Van

Note the rust, caused by a poor installer, compromising 40% to 70% of the bond line along the roof.  Would the windshield/bond be able to help support the roof in a rollover like this?  Did the consumer have any indication it was like this?  No, to both.

 

Explorer

Note the windshield is in place after a multiple rollover, and has done its job in added roof support.  The belted driver walked away unharmed. 

Ford Pickup

Note the windshield is completely missing, following a poor installation due to improper adhesive primer application, and vehicle release to the customer before the adhesive was sufficiently cured.  (Cold weather stopped complete or sufficient cure)  Fortunately, the unbelted driver was caught under the steering wheel and was not thrown from the truck, or seriously injured.

Broken Windshield resulting from airbag deployment.  Normal result.  Shows proper deployment and proper energy absorption by the windshield. 

Broken Windshield resulting from Deer Impact.  Note that passenger compartment is completely intact and was not compromised.  Proper result of engineered life saving systems and proper bonded glass installation. Occupants had only very minor injuries.

 

 

Improper adhesive materials, incompatible primers used by installer.  You should see a 600-800 p.s.i. shear strength bond, instead the adhesive peels away from body with only minor pressure.  Airbag deployment or rollover would have resulted in immediate dislodging of windshield.  

 

Mark Rizzi

ACR Glass

1004 East 10th

Alliance Nebraska 69301

www.acrglass.com

Email <mark@acrglass.com>